What is an Integrator?
Many founders, when they get overwhelmed, start grabbing for any lifeline they can find.
What can I outsource?
Who can I hire who will help?
What role do I need to hire to just get me some damn time?
They often look to a Virtual Assistant (VA) or a bookkeeper as the person that will make it all easier. As business owners, we’re told that those are the first things to take off your plate.
But there’s a trap…
Hiring those roles probably won’t take much off your plate. It might actually add more.
VAs and bookkeepers are lower-level administrative positions. They are going to take the information or process that you give them and follow that. And usually only that.
Which means, instead of saving you time, they’re actually costing you time. Instead of doing those tasks yourself, now you have to:
Develop a process
Teach them the process
Teach them the systems you use to manage your process
AND manage them appropriately to make sure they’re doing the process correctly.
If tasks that are overwhelming you are administrative, like:
Creating a file structure for new clients on Google Drive
Managing your calendar
You might actually be better off spending an hour or two figuring out how to automate those things with Zapier, or setting up a Calendly account, than hiring a person.
Same with a bookkeeper - they’re there to enter data into your accounting system. But, they need YOU to tell them what to enter (or, they just guess - and sometimes guess wrong).
On the surface, it seems like hiring a VA is the easy, logical thing to do (and that idea is drilled into our heads by the likes of Tim Ferris and the 4hr work week crowd).
But if you’ve ever hired a VA or a bookkeeper and been disappointed, this is the reason why.
The Role You Actually Need to Hire...
If you’ve ever thought:
“I need a problem solver”
“I need someone to just make it happen - someone to take the ball and run with it”
You need an integrator, not a VA.
An integrator is a number two. Someone with experience, who intimately understands your vision AND your business.
Hiring an integrator is like hiring a conductor to lead the symphony. While you go craft a new masterpiece, the integrator directs and leads everyone, instead of playing a few notes on a single instrument like a VA or bookkeeper.
The integrator is the person you can turn to and say “I have an awesome idea - make it happen.”
An integrator takes the vision you have as founder, CEO, owner and
Sometimes the integrator role is called project manager, operations manager, Chief Operating Officer, Chief of Staff, CFO (occasionally). But, those are really all just different names for the person who takes the vision and makes it a reality.
A good integrator can:
Develop streamlined processes (and implement them)
Enforce those processes with your team
Actually take things off your plate
An integrator allows you, as the founder, to focus on the things that ONLY you can do. They shoulder the burden of running the business (and usually the team) day-to-day.
So you go back to operating in your Zone of Genius.
What to look for in an Integrator
The role of Integrator in any organization is a critical piece of the puzzle. They’re the one that becomes the glue holding the operations together. So making sure they’re the right fit for both you and your company is vital.
You want to look for someone you have good rapport with. This person is going to be your new business best friend - and in order for this relationship to work, you have to trust each other and consistently ensure that you’re both on the same page. You don’t have to (and you won’t) always agree, but you need to make sure you can have a respectful, thoughtful conversation about disagreements.
You’ll be in close contact with your Integrator, constantly in communication to keep you both in alignment. And no one wants to spend a ton of time with someone they don’t like or trust.
Your Integrator needs to understand your vision, intimately, and you both need to be on the same page about how to achieve it.
But you don’t want someone exactly like you. Avoid that. Look for someone with strengths where you are weak.
If you’re a whiz at marketing, but hate the financial stuff, look for an integrator that has experience in accounting.
If you love writing emails to your audience but hate dealing with email marketing software, look for someone with strong tech skills.
If you love doing sales, but hate trying to understand your financials, look for someone with an accounting background.
Being able to harness your individual strengths and use them to compliment each other means you’re going to grow a stronger, more sustainable business - and faster than you would have alone.
Integrators don’t just come in one flavor or with one kind of experience. Find the one that fits YOU.
One of the most critical pieces of the puzzle is value alignment. You both have to be on the same page, hold the same values when it comes to your business.
If you want to make sure that everyone on your team has work-life balance and that’s a high priority for you, you don’t want an integrator who is all about the grind. Look for someone who holds the same cultural values you want your company to have - because the Captain of the ship sets the tone and the Integrator becomes the first mate.
When you both hold the values and believe in the culture you want to build, then there’s two of you rowing the boat in the same direction.